Jean-Paul RIOPELLE, L'hommage à Rosa Luxemburg, 1992 (détail)[ * ]

The Postcolonial Turn in Literary Translation Studies:
Theoretical Frameworks Reviewed

Bo Pettersson
University of Helsinki

In 1990 Susan Bassnett and André Lefevere, two towering translation studies scholars, famously announced what had been under way for some time: the "cultural turn" in translation studies. In brief, they envisaged that "neither the word, nor the text, but the culture becomes the operational ‘unit’ of translation" (Lefevere and Bassnett 1990: 8). The collection in which their piece appeared (Bassnett and Lefevere 1990) has recently been hailed by Edwin Gentzler (1998: xi), one of the leading synthesizers of translation theory, as the "real breakthrough for the field of translation studies" - which is true in the sense that it epitomized what is sometimes termed "the coming of age" of the discipline. In the 1990s translation studies has in many ways been informed by this cultural turn, which, as Bassnett (1998: 132-133) has shown, includes a rapprochment between cultural studies and translation studies, due to their related efforts to understand the process and status of globalization and national identities. This focus, together with the veritable explosion of postcolonial studies in literature in the last few years of the millennium, has entailed that the cultural turn in translation studies increasingly has become intercultural or multicultural. More specifically, owing to the wide-ranging interest in postcolonial literature and criticism, it might be termed the postcolonial turn.

In this paper I set out critically to review this postcolonial turn in literary translation studies. In order to do so, I must first at some length consider the theoretical - often poststructuralist - frameworks of postcolonial criticism, which so extensively have informed postcolonial translation studies. Then I go on to survey how and to what effect such frameworks are employed in the discipline. Finally I evoke some roads not taken--or not yet taken--that might be fruitfully explored if the aim is to pursue postcolonial studies with some degree of rigor.

1. On the Theoretical Frameworks of Postcolonial Criticism

It is well-known that after Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths and Helen Tiffin’s (1989) much-cited survey of postcolonial literature and criticism, The Empire Writes Back, the field has been one of the most fertile areas in literary studies. In fact, in many ways this study pointed the way in postcolonial studies with its positive comments on the major names discussed in this section and its final welcoming of "powerfully subversive general accounts of textuality and concepts of ‘literariness’" (Ashcroft et al. 1989: 194). Of course, Ashcroft and others had a number of predecessors - say, from Frantz Fanon to Edward Said in theory (and criticism) and from Chinua Achebe to Ngugi wa Thiong’o in literature and criticism -, who paved the ground for the boom in this decade (see e.g. Walder 1998).

But perhaps the field has been most strongly moulded by three theorists and critics, sometimes facetiously referred to as "the Holy Trinity" of postcolonial criticism: Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak and Homi K. Bhabha - here mentioned in their possible ascending order of significance (according to which they are given space below). Understandably, all three are major names, but as one of the leading scholars in African-American literary criticism Gates has primarily had an impact on his own area of specialization. Similarly, perhaps Spivak’s combination of postcolonial criticism and feminism has been most evident in analyses of race and/or nationality from feminist and "subaltern" perspectives. Thus, one could argue that Bhabha has played a central role in recent postcolonial literary studies, since his view of the key concept of hybridity has largely informed the postcolonial debate of the late 1990s.

Since these three scholars have exerted a considerable influence on the theory and practice of postcolonial criticism and later - directly or indirectly - on postcolonial translation studies, their theoretical starting-points should be examined. In doing so, I focus on the most influential work by the respective scholar.

In The Signifying Monkey. A Theory of African-American Literary Criticism Gates (1988/1989: 46, 58) bases his central notion of Signifyin(g) (the "black" oral term) in contradistinction to signifying (the "white" literate term) expressly on Jacques Derrida’s well-known reformulation of différance for Saussure’s différence. In addition to Derrida, Gates (1988/1989: 58) identifies Freud as well as "Lacan’s reading of Freud and Saussure" as having informed his "reading of Signifyin(g)". Moreover, Gates expressly bases his practical analyses of the fiction of Zora Neale Hurston and Alice Walker on Roland Barthes’s metaphorical division of texts into readerly and writerly categories (Gates 1988/1989: 198; 170-216, 239-258).

For a long time Gayatri Spivak was primarily known as the translator of Derrida’s De la grammatologie into English and, by prefacing her translation with a lengthy, insightful introduction, she proved to be one of Derrida’s most sympathetic readers in (American) academia. She has gone on to develop a critical account of the multiple alliances - gender, national, racial, class, professional - of multicultural people, such as (e)migrants, taking herself as an example (female; Bengali/American; middle-class; academic). In doing so, she has made use of both Derrida’s work and that of French feminism, largely based on poststructuralist theory. This is evident in many essays and interviews as well as in her major work In Other Worlds. Essays in Cultural Politics (1987/1988). She describes her theoretical alliances as follows: "most critical theory in my part of the academic establishment (Lacan, Derrida, Foucault, the last Barthes) sees the text as that area of the discourse of the human sciences [...] in which the problem of the discourse of the human sciences is made available" (Spivak 1987/1988: 77). In typical poststructuralist fashion this emphasis on textuality is presented - hedgingly, but still - as an attack on allegedly naive, liberal-humanist and positivistic conceptions.

"To my way of thinking, the discourse of the literary text is part of a general configuration of textuality, a placing forth of the solution as the unavailability of a unified solution to a unified or homogeneous, generating or receiving, consciousness. This unavailability is often not confronted. It is dodged and the problem apparently solved, in terms perhaps of unifying concepts like "man," the universal contours of sex-, race-, class-transcendent consciousness as the generating, generated, and receiving consciousness of the text." (Spivak 1987/1988: 78)

But can Spivak’s typically deconstructionist interpretive indeterminacy - "a placing forth of the solution as the unavailability of a unified solution" -, despite the aid sought in Marx, Freud, Foucault and French feminists, really cut the mustard in practical postcolonial criticism - except for drawing similar sweeping conclusions?

In The Location of Culture Homi Bhabha (1994) relies at least as heavily on poststructuralist theory, especially on Jacques Lacan, Derrida and Barthes (in this order, perhaps, since he considers himself primarily a psychoanalytic theorist). Bhabha (1994: 64) chooses "to give poststructuralism a specifically postcolonial provenance" in order to answer the later Terry Eagleton’s call for a "theory of the subject, which is capable in this dialectical way of grasping social transformation as at once diffusion and affirmation, the death and birth of the subject" (quoted loc.cit.). Characteristic of Bhabha is his use of abstractions, such as the subaltern instance, otherness and hybridity, and when at times the subject does exist as something approaching a real-life agent it is prevalently textualized in the most abstract forms with a questionable argumentative logic. As he puts it in his perhaps most widely anthologized essay, "The Other Question. Stereotype, discrimination and the discourse of colonialism":

"The construction of the colonial subject in discourse, and the exercise of colonial power through discourse, demands an articulation of forms of difference - racial and sexual. Such an articulation becomes crucial if it is held that the body is always simultaneously (if conflictually) inscribed in both the economy of pleasure and desire and the economy of discourse, domination and power." (Bhabha 1994: 67)

Here (as elsewhere in Bhabha 1994) central notions, their definitions and effect often remain vague: How and by whom is the colonial subject constructed? How is colonial power wielded through discourse? How exactly is the notion of articulating difference to be understood? How does this articulation of racial and sexual difference relate to the body (since it relies on the hypothetical claim that the body is always doubly inscribed)? Finally, how does this mysteriously simultaneous double inscription take place, who is behind it and what are its results?

Bhabha’s suggested answer to such questions - and not a very original one at that - seems to be that power structures are intentionally mystified and operate in people’s subconscious minds in ways that suit the powers-that-be. In Bhabha’s (1994: 77) words, drawing on Lacan, Roman Jakobson and Fanon,

"The construction of colonial discourse is then a complex articulation of the tropes of fetishism - metaphor and metonomy - and the forms of narcissistic and aggressive identification available to the Imaginary."

Now the fact that I have excluded the arguments that support Bhabha’s conclusion may make his formulations even harder to grasp. However, if his point is something like the one suggested above, his cryptic and abstract formulations hardly help the reader to grasp, let alone effectively employ, his theoretical concepts.

Similar objections could be leveled at the way in which Bhabha introduces his key notions of in-between and hybridity. The former is first formulated in connection with Bhabha’s (1994: 1-2) implied aims:

"What is theoretically innovative, and politically crucial, is the need to think beyond narratives of originary and initial subjectivities and to focus on those moments or processes that are produced in the articulation of cultural differences. These ‘in-between’ spaces provide the terrain for elaborating strategies of selfhood - singular or communal - that initiate new signs of identity, and innovative sites of collaboration, and contestation, in the act of defining the idea of society itself."

Characteristically for poststructuralist rhetoric, the reader of this passage gets the general drift of the argument, but when he or she attempts to pin down its meaning the argument evaporates. (We should not be duped by the common poststructuralist claim that this is the case for all communication, since we know from experience that communication can effectively take place in acts of communication of various sorts - and that this can be checked orally or in writing.) Has the first sentence in fact implied anything to warrant the deictic phrase "These ‘in-between’ spaces"? Precisely what "terrain" and what sort of "strategies of selfhood" are employed, by whom and how, and in what circumstances?

Of course, Bhabha (or anybody rushing to his defence) could argue that what he is writing is theory, which by definition is rather abstract. True enough, but does that justify conceptual vagueness, bad logic, rhetorical fudging? If the aim is to effect the dismantling of postcolonial power structures, should they not be minutely analyzed rather than further mystified by theoretical jargon?

When the notion of hybridity is introduced a few pages later, it builds on the concept of in-between and an interview with Renée Green, an African-American artist. Her view of a stairwell as "a liminal space" is made use of as a metaphor for identity: "This interstitial passage between fixed identifications opens up the possibility of a cultural hybridity that entertains difference without an assumed or imposed hierarchy" (Bhabha 1994: 3, 4). After this initial mention the term ‘hybridity’ is defined in a variety of ways, usually in vague poststructuralist jargon. At one point Bhabha offers an aggregate of definitions, which goes on for a few pages. Here are some examples:

"Hybridity is the sign of the productivity of colonial power, its shifting forces and fixities; it is the name for the strategic reversal of the process of domination through disavowal [...]. Hybridity is the revaluation of the assumption of colonial identity through the repetition of discriminatory identity effects. [---] Hybridity is the name of this displacement of value from symbol to sign that causes the dominant discourse to split along the axis of its power to be representative, authoritative. [---] [Hybridity] is not a third term that resolves the tension between two cultures, or the two scenes of the book [of English colonial fiction] in a dialectical play of ‘recognition’. [---] Hybridity reverses the formal process of disavowal so that the violent dislocation of the act of colonization becomes the conditionality of colonial discourse." (Bhabha 1994: 112-114)

The reason why I dwell on Bhabha’s definitions of hybridity is that his name is most predominantly evoked in discussions of hybridity in postcolonial criticism. What is more, his writings have been endorsed by major names in various circles of the academic establishment - postcolonial (Said), marxist (Eagleton), new historicist (Stephen Greenblatt), cultural studies (Stuart Hall), literary (Toni Morrison). Still, if Bhabha’s own definitions, logic and rhetoric are as enigmatic and mercurial as the above instances suggest, then where does that leave postcolonial critics and, as we shall see, postcolonial translation scholars worldwide?

As yet I have not even mentioned the well-known fact that in many other academic quarters, such as philosophical and empirical aesthetics, historiography and sociology, the very underpinnings of poststructuralism have been severely criticized for more than two decades (despite the fact that poststructuralism - at times broadly termed postmodernism - has had a foothold in some niches of these fields). This critique has - as far as I know - never been adequately answered (and, most likely, cannot be). In brief, poststructuralism mainly rests on:

(1) a conservative notion of language and a misreading of Saussure (see Tallis 1988/1995);

(2) an (elitist) exaggeration of indeterminacy in meaning-making;

(3) an autonomous, agentless textuality and intertextuality;

(4) an untenable anti-humanism (neglect of actual author and actual reader/s); and

(5) a constructionist view of man (emphasis on nurture, neglect of nature).

As we have seen in this brief review of three leading postcolonial theoreticians and critics, they have all largely based their writings on an array of poststructuralist theories. This means, in turn, that their theoretical frameworks are dubious and that the criticism they - and scholars and students influenced by them all over the world - produce stands on very shaky ground indeed.

To spell it out, the reason why I am so critical of the leading postcolonial theoreticians is that I consider postcolonial literature and criticism and postcolonial translation of such momentous importance to contemporary literature, literary studies and translation studies that the theoretical frameworks that inform our view of them should be plausible (to say the least), and should build on actual, contextual, historically-informed, sociocultural (including ideological) and textual groundedness in at least two cultures - and a willingness to employ this groundedness in order to bring about more discriminating understanding of those cultures and their artifacts.

In other words, what we need to recognize today is the complexity of literary communication and translation. In this endeavour expendable criticism in academic jargon on an untenable theoretical basis is not just scientifically off the mark; it is also morally dubious pedagogy (if this kind of writing is endorsed by teachers and scholars) and, ultimately, one of the reasons why literary studies have been given such a bad name in other academic disciplines. As in all literature, in postcolonial literature we should be aware of the uniqueness of every work, its context of production, mediation and reception - and the latter two in diachronic as well as synchronic perspectives (see Pettersson 1999). More specifically, in postcolonial criticism sweeping notions of hybridity are of little use, since the (post)colonial contexts differ so radically from case to case.

What has brought us to this point is obvious: this century has been one of textuality in literary studies: from Russian formalism and new criticism to structuralism and poststructuralism. All the theoreticians and critics who endorse the writings of "the Holy Trinity" do so because they too are steeped in this tradition - which, needless to say, was sorely needed after the preceding romantic biographism and which has produced much of lasting interest. To reiterate, what is called for now are broader frameworks, which are able to account for originary, mediating, receptive as well as textual aspects in literary communication - and case studies recognizing this complexity. In this century notably marxists, feminists and postcolonial scholars have contextualized their objects of study; this is why it is particularly deplorable to see how many such (even prominent) scholars have been swept off their feet by poststructuralist frameworks and jargon. A final point: the most lasting contribution of poststructuralism, as far as I can see, is its probings into the uses of rhetoric - even though the very rhetoric such probings are dressed in may show little self-critical awareness (see Pettersson in press.)

2. Postcolonial Translation in Theory and Practice

As we move from postcolonial theory to the theory and practice of postcolonial translation, we see that much is taken over from the former or from the theoretical frameworks that inform the former.

The most widely discussed and cited translation scholar in the last few years has probably been Lawrence Venuti (especially Venuti 1995), who advocates foreignizing (as against domesticating) translation at all costs. First we should note what is obvious: this attitude is at least as old as Schleiermacher (1813/1992) in translation studies. Another point I have made elsewhere is that there are, especially in literary translation, instances in which the source text includes features such as the ones Venuti advocates - "discursive variations, experimenting with archaism, slang, literary allusion and convention" (Venuti 1995: 310). In such cases perhaps the convention of "faithful" or "invisible" translation Venuti (1992a, 1995, 1998) so despises would better convey the features that prompted their translations in the first place. What is more, it is at least potentially paradoxical that the translator should be "visible" and employ "foreignizing" features at the same time, since foreignizing features, at least in the Schleiermacher tradition (see Lefevere and Bassnett 1998: 7-10), were primarily introduced into the target text from the source text, not by the translator’s invention (on the last two points see Pettersson 1998: 338-339).

The influence Venuti has exerted on translation studies - not least postcolonial translation - has been widespread enough to warrant scrutiny of his theoretical framework. In fact Venuti’s major studies (1995, 1998) include little overt reference to literary theoreticians that inform his work. But in other fora he has been more outspoken. In his introduction to and selection in the edition Rethinking Translation. Discourse, Subjectivity, Ideology (Venuti 1992b) and in a recorded debate (in Schäffner and Kelly-Holmes 1995), he puts his cards on the table:

"Poststructuralism has in fact initiated a radical reconsideration of the traditional topoi of translation theory. Largely through commentaries on Walter Benjamin’s essay ‘The Task of the Translator,’ poststructuralist thinkers like Jacques Derrida and Paul de Man explode the «binary opposition between ‘original’ and ‘translation’» which underwrites the translator’s invisibility today." (Venuti 1992a: 6)

"[...] the methodological framework I’m coming from is the post-structuralist framework with a very heavy dose of the Marxist tradition of the Frankfurt school." (Schäffner and Kelly-Holmes 1995: 41; yet he voices his scepticism of Derrida’s "free play with the signifier", 1995: 35)

In fact poststructuralist thinkers did not initiate the reconsideration, let alone the explosion, of "the binary opposition between ‘original’ and ‘translation’" in translation studies. The relevant changes were largely part of a development within the discipline more generally and could be identified already at the famous Leuven conference in 1976 and in the collection entitled The Manipulation of Literature. Studies in Literary Translation by Theo Hermans (1985) (see Gentzler 1998: ix-xi). In this collection there are only two overt references to poststructuralism and its predecessors: Leon Burnett (1985: 169-70) briefly paraphrases Walter Benjamin’s famous essay "Die Aufgabe des Übersetzers", which, as we have seen, Venuti (1992a) considers seminal for poststructuralist translation theory (as does Niranjana 1992: 4-5); and Lefevere (1985) invokes Paul de Man’s view of criticism as a kind of literature and on that basis launches his famous view of "translation as one, probably the most radical form of rewriting in a literature, or a culture" (see Lefevere 1985: 219, 241 quote). However, as the "manipulation" view later gained ground, it was certainly cross-fertilized by poststructuralist frameworks, such as Venuti’s.

A brief review of the theory and practice of postcolonial translation studies quickly reveals the extent to which translation scholars draw on poststructuralism, "the Holy Trinity" (especially Bhabha 1994), and Venuti (1995). Two of the earliest and most explicitly poststructuralist studies are Vicente L. Rafael’s (1988/1993) Contracting Colonialism: Translation and Christian Conversion in Tagalog Society under Early Spanish Rule and Tejaswini Niranjana’s (1992) Siting Translation: History, Post-Structuralism, and the Colonial Context. They are lucidly reviewed by Douglas Robinson (1998) in his survey Translation and Empire. Postcolonial Theories Explained. In fact Robinson (1998: 108-113) presents such a useful four-point list of criticisms of the frameworks of these two works and Venuti (1995) that I am content to list his points in brief. He asks:

(a) whether the impact of foreignizing vs. domesticating translations on a target culture is as different as has been claimed;

(b) whether the impact of either type of translation (if such a naive division in fact should be made at all) is as monolithic as has been supposed;

(c) whether foreignizing translations are not inherently elitist; and

(d) whether the stable separation of source and target languages in the assimilating-foreignizing distinction is tenable.

The importance of these four critical points lies in the fact that Robinson considers the results of employing theoretical frameworks in translation studies and goes on to suggest that acts of translation should be contextualized. (I return to Robinson 1998 and this point in section 3.)

Even more recently Susan Bassnett and Harish Trivedi (1999b) have edited a collection titled Post-Colonial Translation. Theory and practice which is largely informed by poststructuralist frameworks. In their introduction Bassnett and Trivedi (1999a: 6, 12) invoke Bhabha’s "inbetweenness" (and "Third Space"), and so does Sherry Simon (1999) in her essay on bilingualism in Quebecois writing. Maria Tymoczko (1999) draws on Venuti and Bhabha - and other translation scholars - in her analysis of how Ngugi wa Thiong’o and Chinua Achebe, among other African authors, employ, without supplying explanations, African terms in the original as a foreignizing device (forgetting that Achebe 1959/1984: 192 added a glossary to his first novel, Things Fall Apart, and thus trained his readers in Igbo terminology). G. J. V. Prasad (1999: 54 quote, 54-55) situates his intriguing conclusion that "Indian English writers are [...] using various strategies to make their works read like translations" in relation to Bhabha and two like-minded critics (Sherry Simon 1992 and Samia Mehrez 1992, both in Venuti 1992b). Else Ribeiro Pires Vieira (1999) describes the way in which Haroldo de Campos launches his "poetics of transcreation" from a Brazilian point of view. De Campos’ evocations of Benjamin and Derrida are thus held to be inscribed within a larger project aimed at effecting a liberation from the Eurocentric tradition by "cannibalizing" it. Even though Rosemary Arrojo (1999: 159) briefly cites Spivak in her critique of Hélène Cixous’s "masculine" appropriation of the intriguing Brazilian fiction writer Clarice Lispector, she also suggests - and I take it that she intends this suggestion as a negative assessment - that Cixous’s translation strategy "seems to follow a similar rationale" as do Venuti and Niranjana (Arrojo 1999: 148).

However, the most dissenting voice in Bassnett and Trivedi (1999b) is that of Vinay Dharwadker (1999), who, in the longest paper in the collection, shows what indigenous scholarship cross-fertilized with Western traditions of literary studies, linguistics and anthropology has accomplished in the translation theory and practice of A. K. Ramanujan. In the course of so doing, Dharwadker (1999: 123-126, 130-135) amasses much evidence for his argument against the criticism Niranjana (1992) directs against Ramanujan - and Dharwadker thus turns the tables on Niranjana, whose theory and practice are, it seems, effectively dismantled. Dharwadker (1999: 126-30) gets to the bottom of Niranjana’s theorizing when examining Benjamin’s and Derrida’s pronouncements on translation, which prove to be parochial and of little use, respectively, when viewed in the light of A. K. Ramanujan’s practice. What is more, expressly unlike Bhabha, for whom, Dharwadker (1999: 129) rightly claims, "all identities are ineluctably ambivalent and hybrid in the end",

"Ramanujan accepted the hybridity of languages and cultures as a starting point and tried to show, instead, how different degrees and kinds of hybridization shape particular languages, and how, despite the universal fact of mongrelization, no two mongrels are actually alike."

The aim of my critical view has been, not to invalidate everything the above theorists and critics have done, but to point to the damage that the misguided theoretical frameworks have caused - and continue to cause - in the theory and practice of postcolonial translation studies. However, one should remember that even though I here have singled out the poststructuralist frameworks that translation scholars employ, many of them draw on a broad array of translation theories and (in some cases) practices.

To conclude, let us briefly consider where translation studies in general and postcolonial literary translation studies in particular are today, and where they might go.

3. Roads to be Taken and Roads Not to be Taken

The above section title probably irks people who feel that translation studies should be past prescriptive admonitions, since the disciplinary watchword for more than two decades has been description rather than prescription. But why, then, have so many of the most eminent names in the field, from Lefevere (1975) to Gideon Toury (1995), continued to offer us various rules and regulations for translation praxis? What is more, Andrew Chesterman (1998: 226, 227) has recently suggested that "a prescriptive statement is simply a form of hypothesis, usually concerning the desirability parameter", and, if this is the case, then "we should incorporate it [prescriptivism] into our empirical theory, testing its hypotheses just as we would test any others". Chesterman (1998: 201) also identifies "the shift from philosophical conceptual analysis towards empirical research" as "the most important trend" in current translation studies, in conjunction with the general movement from translational to translatorial studies.

It is evident that if such a shift is to take place in postcolonial literary translation studies - and such a shift, I believe, is sorely needed inasmuch as the relevant approaches have been highly theory-driven since their inception -, then much should be done in order to effect rewarding interaction between theory and practice. Perhaps the discipline should even be turned on its head: translation studies could be practice-driven, rather than theory-driven. Since each act of postcolonial translation has such manifold contextual parameters, perhaps a meticulous study of those parameters would benefit not only the object of study and possible comparative theorizing, but also lead to a better understanding of the relevant postcolonial situation and its ties with the (former) colonizing culture - and other cultures.

Moreover, some ingrained notions in translation rhetoric - especially evident in the work of poststructuralist scholars but in that of others too - are definitely unhelpful. First, translation is often employed as an overriding and rather one-dimensional metaphor for interpretation of all kinds. Second, Lefevere’s notion of translation as rewriting is of little help, unless rigidly specified. Third, comparisons of postcolonial literature and translation are certainly of some interest, but should be combined with more enlightening studies of their dissimilarities. In all three cases it is the complexity of the act of translation and its position in its various sociocultural (etc.) contexts that should be closely examined.

Despite the fact that this paper has primarily presented a critical review of poststructuralist frameworks that have extensively informed postcolonial translation studies, let me note what should go without saying: other frameworks too should be subjected to similar scrutiny. For instance, Eric Cheyfitz’s (1991) The Poetics of Imperialism. Translation and Colonization from The Tempest to Tarzan does not draw on poststructuralism but is seriously flawed by the rather common view in postcolonial translation studies of the precolonial society as a utopia and translation as the colonizer’s demonic tool (for a critical reading of Cheyfitz 1991 see Robinson 1998: 63-77, 105-108).

José Lambert, who for many years has struggled to see translation studies in a more global perspective, proposed "A Program for Fieldwork" a few years ago. Some of the central points in the program - the call for "hypotheses on communication principles" together with "microscopic and macroscopic research" (Lambert 1996: 414) - could certainly be of use in postcolonial translation. What is more, Lambert (1994: 21) has noted that since "the target pole and - even more - the binary opposition source/target have been stressed excessively in recent publications, the discussion of the source-target-transfer aspects of translation research has hardly taken place". This would suggest that Anthony Pym’s (1992) multidimensional approach to text transfer in translation should still be pursued and renewed - and introduced into postcolonial translation studies.

In short, what postcolonial translation studies now need is at least (a combination of) the following: theoretical eclecticism, so that, for instance, the polysystem, Handlung and Skopos schools could be made use of; case studies firmly grounded in sociocultural fieldwork; and an interdisciplinary openness to related work in ethnography, anthropology, sociology, history, linguistics (especially pragmatics) and literary studies (especially literary pragmatics). This way translation studies might be able to accomplish what Robinson (1998: 79) - arguing against linguistic equivalence in translation studies - envisages:

"Translation in its multifarious social, cultural, economic and political contexts is impossibly more complex a field of study than abstract linguistic equivalence (which is already complex enough); but the chance of perhaps coming to understand how translation works in those contexts, how translation shapes cultures both at and within their boundaries, offers a powerful motivation to push on despite the difficulty of the undertaking."

This aim is potentially of such great consequence, not just for literary studies and translation studies but also for the future of the cultures involved, that the theoretical frameworks within which postcolonial translation studies are conducted must be subjected to scrutiny, and, if found wanting, replaced.

The author would like to thank Andrew Chesterman and Yves Gambier

for references and interesting discussions.


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